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It is hard for most pet owners and enthusiasts to picture their dogs lashing out at them. Even when discussing some of the more lethal breeds found in the lower parts of this article, people have had litters of deadlier dogs that turned out sweet, loyal, and gentle. However, these past experiences do not mean that every dog is safe to be around, and some are notoriously dangerous.
As a disclaimer, a large portion of a dog’s behavior falls on its owner, upbringing, and individual training. You are probably a great person, but if you were abused and neglected throughout your upbringing, you may end up with some bad qualities.
The following paragraphs will detail the most dangerous dog breeds and what has given them such a ferocious reputation. Whether you are looking for a guard dog or trying to avoid a potential dust-up with a new pooch, learning which dogs to be cautious around is invaluable and potentially life-saving.
Ten Most Dangerous Dog Breeds in 2024
While it would be easy to go over dogs based on how dangerous they could be, we will instead focus on which breeds have caused injuries or worse to humans. For example, an Irish Wolfhound could do a lot of damage to a person if it wanted to, though wolfhounds have rarely been known for chaotic temperaments and violent outbursts.
Mixed breeds are an honorable mention that will not get brought up due to the obvious variation from one dog to another. Mutts ranked fourth in terms of fatal bites, but they come in a lot of endearing shapes and sizes that make them impossible to categorize.
The angel-eyed companion that so many people have grown to love and cherish deeply has a bad history of aggression and accounts for over half of all fatal dog attacks. While it may be easy to blame the breed as a uniquely rotten egg in a sea of well-kept shells, the truth is that pit bulls have been bred to engage in illegal dog fights for decades now.
In a theme that will be repeated ad nauseam in this article, their aggression falls on horrific treatment and negative qualities being encouraged by abusive owners across decades.
This unfortunate past doesn’t mean that all pit bulls are bad; several owners will happily defend the hefty companion whenever a negative statement is uttered. Realistically, however, they are not a good choice for inexperienced owners, families with smaller children, or people who fear animals, particularly canines.
Pitbulls have been bred to be lethal in fights, and this can be deadly to unprepared owners who will pose little chance of defending themselves if their dog decides to break bad. The breed has a bite that measures between 235 to 260 pounds of force per square inch and is covered in muscle.
There were 284 recorded deaths by pit bulls between 2005 to 2017. However, several defenders of the breed have correctly stated that they are often misidentified. In fact, several bulldogs are incorrectly labeled as pitbulls while having no pitbull genetics at all.
Despite this, the overwhelming amount of human fatalities that are linked to pitbulls make them a breed that should be carefully considered before a prospective owner takes the leap. Regrettably, the closest second only accounts for 10% of fatalities (pit bulls account for 65%), making pit bulls an overwhelming outlier when it comes to their potential for violence.
The stoic and intelligent rottweiler is adored worldwide and is one of the most popular breeds on the market today. They have a devoted and loyal disposition towards their owners and are known for being incredible guard dogs. With their handsome coat and adorable brown eyebrows, it is difficult to walk past one without throwing out a casual offer for adoption.
Unfortunately, their protective nature has resulted in several tragedies, making them the second most dangerous dog breed.
The breed is responsible for 45 deaths from 2005 to 2017 and has been known to be particularly violent with strangers and visitors to their home. Their bite is absurdly powerful, measuring 328 pounds per square inch, and can break arm bones. They can grow up to 120 pounds when fully mature and are tremendously strong dogs.
Because of this, you must know what type of upbringing the breed has had before adoption, and it may help to look for a breeder with a good reputation. They are excellent home protectors and charming, dopey companions, but they can also hurt people if the rottweiler perceives them as a threat.
Those considering adopting a rottweiler should ensure that the dog:
- Has access to a large area to expend its energy.
- It is owned by a relaxed, confident person, not in a loud, tumultuous environment.
- It gets plenty of affection and attention as they require more than most breeds.
- Is engaged in mentally and physically stimulating activities.
- Is trained early and often to eliminate bad habits and potential aggression.
The breed will not be a good choice for people who are inexperienced when it comes to owning dogs. They can be excellent for a family with kids (they are surprisingly gentle towards children), though new faces should be cautious until the dog learns to be more accepting of strangers.
A rottweiler will rarely attack an owner, but they may perceive a friendly gesture as a threat and cause sincere damage to a person in an effort to protect their family. They are powerful and quick when trying to eliminate any potential danger; restraining a rottweiler as it catches its stride will be nearly impossible.
3. German Shepherds
Next on the list is a breed synonymous with police canines, watchdogs, and diligent home protectors. German shepherds are uniquely intelligent animals with a protective streak that can make them excellent for home security and several service positions. Unfortunately, they also have a mean streak that has caused a bad reputation.
German shepherds accounted for 20 deaths from 2005 to 2017 and are responsible for several non-lethal bites throughout the years. Like all breeds, this typically comes down to bad owners and lack of proper training, though it is still a concern for those interested in the breed. They are incredibly sharp and attentive, so training can go a long way to minimizing risk.
The bite strength of a German shepherd is alarmingly high at 238 to 291 pounds per square inch, and they can get up to 90 pounds when fully grown. They are swift and athletic, which any K9 training video can attest to, and will not hesitate to protect their owners.
Due to the breed’s high prey drive, families with cats and smaller animals should steer clear of the German shepherd. If you have your heart set on the dog, get a puppy, let it grow with the other pets in your house, and train it to coexist peacefully.
German shepherds may be more than a novice owner can handle, however, and should be reserved for experienced owners.
4. American Bulldog
While people may picture British Bulldogs, the lovably chunky couch potato cousin of American Bulldogs, the American Bulldog is a broad, brawny breed with a tremendous bite. While they account for 3.5% (15 deaths) of fatal bites, the stout dogs are more known for being aggressive to other canines.
The American bulldog has a splintering jaw that can produce 305 pounds of force per square inch and can break into the triple digits when fully grown. Not only can they cause grievous injury to a person, but they can also floor them at a full sprint. For those thinking about getting an American bulldog, there are several factors to consider ahead of time.
Some considerations when getting an American Bulldog are:
- Do you have other dogs that may prove confrontational?
- Are you experienced with owning and training larger dogs?
- Do you live in an area with a high canine population?
- Are you willing to train and exercise a highly energetic dog?
- Can you dedicate a few hours to keeping your dog physically and mentally fulfilled?
If you are unsure of any of these questions, it may be worth looking into another dog. American bulldogs are often wonderful companions that can genuinely enrich the lives of their owners, but they require and deserve a fair bit of attention on their end. A poorly trained and anxious canine can result in violent incidents that could result in an otherwise incredible dog having to get put down.
Speaking of avoiding animals, the American bulldog has a prey drive that rivals any other breed on this list and should be kept away from smaller animals they haven’t grown up with. Any adult bulldogs you consider bringing home should be kept away from cats and other diminutive pets until they have been properly socialized and closely monitored.
The bullmastiff is a calm behemoth of a dog that only needs to be seen to understand how dangerous they could be. They are daunting animals with a massive stretch of muscle and loose skin that helps protect against animal bites. While they are intensely loyal and affectionate dogs, they have resulted in 14 human deaths over a 12-year period.
In fairness to the bullmastiff, if they gave a paw too aggressively, it could probably result in a hospital visit. The breed is massive and has considerable power behind its frame. This protective and powerful nature makes them incredible guard dogs, though they are typically very gentle and docile towards owners and immediate family.
Their calm, laid-back nature is a welcome character trait. bullmastiffs have a bite that can measure up to 552 pounds per square inch, the highest on this list by far. Similarly, they can get up to 130 pounds and have a frame that looks like they do pull-ups between sessions of fetch.
They are not typically mean dogs, though they are far from fearful of anything that could be considered a threat and, if not well-trained, could seriously harm a person or animal.
Like other animals on the list, they are not unworthy of adoption; in fact they are incredible animals. However, they should be cared for by someone with experience and free time to train and bond with them. A big dog is a larger responsibility due to their potential for destruction, so would-be owners should carefully consider their options before adoption.
6. Siberian Huskies
Siberian huskies are one of the most breathtaking animals a person will ever see and have become wildly popular due to their incredible eyes, soft coat, and wolflike features. They are a breed known for being incredibly vocal and animated, though they have a stubborn streak that can occasionally cause them to lash out.
The breed has a bite that touches an impressive 320 pounds per square inch, considering they usually only get up to 60 pounds or less. Across a 12-year study, Sibering huskies were responsible for 13 fatal bites.
Whether this is built into the breed by their years of living in harsh conditions or due to their close genetic correlation with wolves is unclear, though it is a fact that all owners should know. While everyone remembers a friend or family member with a charming husky, the breed is stronger than their size indicates and should be well-trained and carefully handled.
Most huskies will get along fine with families and kids, given that they have a calm, relaxed environment and a lot of time to play, train, and expend their energy. However, they are a handful even for veteran owners, and new owners should look to less demanding breeds.
7. Labrador Retrievers
This part of the list gets into the weeds as the question arises of how violent the breed is compared to how common they are in the average household. For labradors, which measured 2.1% of all bites in a 12-year period, it feels like you can’t walk down a city block without spotting two.
Labrador retrievers have been one of the most popular breeds in the Western world for decades; everyone remembers their labrador or the several they met growing up. The breed is abundant, and with that incredible population size, there are also bound to be bad apples.
Labradors typically attack like most animals when they feel threatened, though they are not known for being overly aggressive. The puppy-eyed breed is one of the few canines on this list that may not serve as a helpful watchdog due to how aloof they can sometimes be. Again, this will come down to individual temperament.
That said, labradors can get as big as 80 pounds when full-grown, with a bite force of 230 pounds per square inch. So, while they are typically the goofy and endearing dogs most know them to be, they are fully capable of causing severe injuries.
Boxers are an incredibly diligent breed with a well-loved personality and keen senses. They are a popular breed that has become well-loved for their lovable, quirky dispositions and an expression of permanent bewilderment. Unfortunately, their ability as guard dogs has also translated into boxers being considered one of the more dangerous breeds today.
They have been the culprits in seven fatal bites over 12 years, and while they may not be as imposing as a pitbull or bullmastiff, they are surprisingly strong. They have a bite that measures around 230 pounds per square inch and a fearless attitude when protecting their family or loved ones.
No dog on this list is irredeemable, and boxers are not the exception. However, they should be trained regularly from an early age to learn to reign in their defensive streak and ensure that they know when to “turn it on.”
9. Doberman Pinscher
If there is a dog that could be considered the most intimidating, it would likely be the doberman pinscher. Their sleek coat and intelligent, alert stare have made them something of a stereotype when it comes to mean dogs, particularly in cinema. Unsurprisingly, they are one of the best guard dogs a person can get.
This reputation doesn’t mean they are going to snap at their family the second an owner gets close, however. Dobermans are well-known for being incredibly compassionate towards their family. They can, however, tend to bond with an individual over a group and will need to be trained to reign in their innately protective personality.
They have a bite that is often said to be around 600 pounds per square inch, though it is likely closer to 305. The breed is responsible for six deaths in 12 years and is a bad fit for any owner who isn’t diligent, patient, and calm.
The breed tends to get along poorly with other canines and smaller animals as pinschers try to run the roost. Early introductions and frequent socialization may help, though they are not a breed recommended for a house with other pets.
10. Alaskan Malamutes
Alaskan malamutes look like huskies that went outside with an extra coat and have similar resistance to colder climates. They are often sweet animals with a playful side, though they have a stubborn streak that is difficult to contend with and can make training difficult. While they aren’t known for being mean, they can be sharp with other animals and overly energetic.
They are responsible for four deaths in a 12-year study and should be handled patiently, as their ability to defend themselves is considerable. They have a bite force of 400 pounds per square inch and can get up to 90 pounds when fully grown.
Prospective owners should be experienced with handling big dogs and willing to undergo a mild headache when trying to curb their independent personality. They are brilliant animals with great personalities, though they require a lot of exercise, training, and effort from their owners.
Things to Consider With Dangerous Dog Breeds
While these may be the most dangerous dog breeds, that does not mean they are breeds people should always avoid. Even with the daunting statistics surrounding pit bulls, everyone knows one that could melt the heart of the most skeptical canine critics. Dogs will always have their quirks; however, they are a reflection of their owner’s ability to train and care for them.
If you are willing to put in the work to find an agreeable dog from a reputable breeder, then putting in the time to train them should be par for the course. This doesn’t mean that you should try to make a breed into something that is not known to be. A doberman will not typically do well in a loud house with several animals, so they should be reserved for quieter homes.
Similarly, every dog has an aptitude for a particular lifestyle and may struggle in unusual conditions, so understanding a breed beforehand will go a long way.